Starting and managing a new business enterprise is often intense. Long work weeks. Deadlines. Meeting prospective clients, buyers, sub-contractors, and potential hires – the people who will grow your vision. It’s an exciting time, but it would be a lot more productive if you had a system for the things you do as the owner of a small business. Here are some suggestions to help you start out on the right foot.

Develop an elevator pitch, practice it until you can repeat it in your sleep! Here’s the challenge. Prospects don’t want to learn what you do. They want you to tell them – and quickly. Give yourself 60 seconds to sum up what your company does and how you can benefit the listener.

Focus on meeting their needs, not on how great you are. “Here are six ways I’ll grow your bottom line.” That should get someone’s attention.

Avoid becoming a captive company. If 50% of company revenue comes from a single client, that client “owns” you. That client limits potential expansion options. Servicing that all-important top client limits your ability to find other revenue sources.

Use your client base to further diversify. Take time to market yourself and your company to avoid the temptation to rely on a single client for a large portion of your company’s income.

The more regular clients you have, the stronger your company’s bargaining position. With enough clients, you can politely walk away from any project that portends trouble.

Make sure clients or customers know they’re getting a break. When you send out invoices, be sure to include the regular price, the loyalty discount, the final price, and a “You saved $7.95” reminder so customers don’t have to figure out how much your outlet saved them.

Incentives still work. Just make sure that, regardless of how customers receive information, i.e. smartphone, email, tablet, pod, PDA – they clearly see the tangible, dollars-and-cents benefit of buying from you. FREE SHIPPING works, too.

Determine individual customer value. A car buyer who also uses the dealership’s service department and finances through the dealership has a higher customer value than a customer buying a car who is never seen “in these parts” again. Keep a record of your customers so you can properly assess their long-term value to the company. Some customers may actually cost you money if they have expectations that exceed any agreement.

Clients hate to be nickeled-and-dimed to death. Set an hourly rate and track your work activities each time you deliver services. Don’t add copy costs, postage, return postage, a restocking fee, insurance, or other little (and annoying) expenses. By the hour or fixed rate – either way, don’t sweat the small stuff. Just build it into your rate.

Create as many payment gateways as possible. The easier it is to buy something from you, the more people will buy. Large online companies have buying down to a one-click checkout. One click and BOOM – you’re off to do something else.

Of course you have to accept credit cards, but you should also be able to accept electronic funds transfers (EFT), automated clearinghouse (ACH) transfers, and even good old paper checks if that’s what the customer wants or needs for tax purposes. Ask your bank how you can offer payment options to increase your business.

Cut travel costs. You can collaborate online, and talk face to face with clients and customers using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). If you do travel, use a rewards credit card that delivers rewards or cash back incentives to help save on company expenses. Also, a company credit card is very helpful at tax time in identifying business deductions.

Collect customer information. With digital, wireless connectivity, an email address is valuable. A smartphone number enables your business to push useful information to prospects to establish company credibility and expertise.

When you attend industry trade shows, conferences or other get-togethers, hand out your business card to everyone and collect as many as you can. The objective? Create an ever-expanding database of prospects and customers who regularly receive coupons or the company newsletter free each month.

Network – locally and globally. You never know where your next A-1 client or customer will come from. Around the corner or around the globe, every business is a global business. Join the local Chamber of Commerce to meet local business leaders. Join industry and trade groups to meet a more expansive base of prospects.

Manage your business reputation. A single bad review on Angie’s List® or Yelp® can torpedo even a well-established business. Always treat customers and clients fairly and with respect. Pretty soon, word of mouth will spread your reputation for ethical best practices among industry insiders and the potential customers.

This may sound like pretty basic advice, but many small business owners overlook the basics because of their narrow focus on daily business activity. Take some time to set things up the right way, and follow established guidelines to help you stay on the path toward success.

 


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.